Friday, February 22, 2013

Oscar Facts!

By Anant Mathur (February 22, 2013) 

The 85th Annual Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, take place this Sunday (Feb. 24, 2012). Most of us were not around when the first Oscar ceremony took place, so here are some fact and moments you may or may not know from the first Oscars till now.

-First oscar ceremony was on May 16, 1929. 1927 & 1928 films were nominated. The first pic to win was wings (1927). Wings was the most expansive film up to that time.

-In 1942, Walt Disney was awarded 3 Oscars. One for inventing Mickey Mouse; another for creating Snow White, the first feature length animated film (this came with seven little Oscars); but the third, The Irving G Thalberg Award, proved too much for the animation great and he spent most of the speech misty-eyed.

-Since the Academy Awards ceremonies began in 1929, 73 different people have hosted or co-hosted the event. Some have hosted multiple times, but none holds a candle to Bob Hope. The actor/comedian hosted the Oscars a record 18 different times, beginning in 1940.

-My generation most popular host was Billy Crystal who has hosted 8 times

-In 1942, Citizen Kane was beaten to Best Picture by How Green Was My Valley.

-When presenting the award for Best Visual Effects, in 2006, Ben Stiller arrived on stage clad in green unitard so that he might be digitally erased by the power of visual effects and have the award present itself.

-The first ceremony was televised in 1953. 

-Only three films (It Happened One Night, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and Silence Of The Lambs) have won all five major Oscars (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay).  

-In 1943, when accepting Best Actress for Mrs Miniver, Greer Garson rambled on with thanks for over six minutes, reputedly the longest acceptance speech in Oscar history.

-In 2002, the audience had to wait over 4 hours and 17 minutes for A Beautiful Mind to be crowned Best Picture.

-The almost unthinkable happened in 1958 when the telecast actually ran short, forcing host Jerry Lewis to fill for twenty minutes.

-Marlon Brando won Best Actor for The Godfather in 1973, staying away from the ceremony himself, he sent a native American named Sacheen Littlefeather to announce that he could not accept the award due to the film industry's poor treatment of native Americans.

-Shirley Temple was given an Honorary Juvenile Award in 1934 "in grateful recognition for her contribution to screen entertainment". She was six.

-At the 1940 ceremony, Hattie McDaniel became the first black actor nominated and the first to win. It would be another 23 years before a black actor, Sidney Poitier, won in either of the leading categories and 62 years before Halle Berry won Best Actress.

-In 1992, Jack Palance won Best Supporting Actor for his role in City Slickers. After taking to the stage to accept his award and joking that he could "crap bigger" than co-star and host Billy Crystal, Palance dropped to the floor and did a series of one-handed press-ups. He was 73!  

-For the first and only time in Oscar history, two people won the award best supporting actress award in 1968 (Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn).

-Sidney Poitier was the first black actor to win the award for a leading role when he won for Lilies of the Field at the 1963 Oscar ceremony.

-Martin Scorsese had been nominated in the directing category five times and lost every one. So, in 2007, when he was nominated a sixth time for The Departed, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola arrived on stage to present the award.

-After six nominations, Alfred Hitchcock never won a competitive Oscar. In 1967, the honorary Irving G. Thalberg award was bestow upon one of cinema's greatest. His entire acceptance speech amounted to a simple, "Thank you". 

-In 1972, Charlie Chaplin received the longest ovation in Oscar history, lasting over five minutes. 

-The greatest boxers of the movie world and the real world met on stage at the 1976 ceremony. As Sylvester Stallone, aka Rocky Balboa, prepared to present an award, Muhammad Ali snuck up behind him.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Tip # 33: Writing

By Anant Mathur (February 4, 2013) 

Often I'm told by people that they're fed up of the run-of-the-mill stories they see in films and on television. My first response is that I agree with them but then as we converse further I explain why this exists today.

The film and television medium are not anything new; they've been around for many decades and generations. Hundreds of thousands of stories have been told over the years and as the audience watches more and more, they develop a better understanding of how stories are constructed and are able to figure out scenes and plot points before they are revealed to them; this makes the story dull and boring for them. The reason this happens is because over the years the people who first started in film and television have created formulas for writing for the big and small screens.

Today, we live in a world where filmmakers and television artist are trained from some school or the other, a place where they have learned these formulas. The problem is that these formulas don't work anymore. As mentioned earlier, people today have watched enough television and films to figure out the end of a story within the first 2 minutes. I can usually figure out the whole story from a trailer - that's how dull stories are today.

Love stories have been done to death, especially in India, and now whenever someone goes to see a love story they know that the couple is going to end up together even before they get into the theater, how the story gets there is irrelevant. 

Same is true for a murder mystery, you already know one of the characters has done it and chances are you'll know much before you're told who the killer is and won't enjoy the rest of the story. Gone are the days when you could stretch a storyline till the cows came home. Now people get bored. The audience is a little forgiving towards television programs because they don't cost all that much to watch, but films are expensive and if they disappoint they really turn an audience off.

So how do you write a story that keeps the interest of the audience? Glad you asked. For starters you can't just have one problem in your story. For example, you can't have a love story where the only issue is that the parents don't like the guy or girl and you spend the whole time trying to convince the parents that the guy or girl is the right choice. As a writer you need to give them more than one problem to deal with. One problem is solved and another one has to be solved then another two or three, each problem may only last 5, 10 or 15 minutes but it should keep the viewer glued to the screen. Similarly in a mystery, it's the opposite, you can't keep throwing twist after twist after twist into your story, it makes your story unreliable and very frustrating for the viewer to follow. The best mysteries are the ones which have one amazing twist at the end and the killer isn't one of the characters you've been following for the last 2-3 hrs. 

When films were first made there were no formulas or styles, people just told stories the best way they knew how. Today, filmmakers get so wrapped up in formulas, style and the technical aspects that they forget about telling a good story. Going to film school is not about learning the technical aspects of filmmaking - which you can learn while on the job. Film school is about learning how to tell a brilliant story that people will enjoy for generations. If you can't make a classic what's the point of being in this field? Stop thinking about it as a business/cash cow and start thinking about it as an opportunity, an opportunity to tell your audience a story they haven't seen before. Tell your story the way you think it should be told, forget formulas and style, each story should be a unique experience and not a factory product.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.